After the release of their debut album, To Whom It May Concern, in 2014, New York metalcore outfit Sylar seemed to be one of the rising stars in the scene, even with a plethora of divisiveness to be found amongst fans and critics alike. Then, the band essentially disappeared by leaving their label and giving a feeling of radio silence on the social media front, with many left wondering what had happened. As the old saying goes, good things come when least expected and that rung wholeheartedly true for the band and their fans alike as they re-emerged in March by announcing their signing to Hopeless Records followed up by the announcement of their sophomore album, Help!, in June. With a new label to call home and a new record to release that contains a different approach compared to their debut, the band has once again positioned themselves for success which begs the question – was Help! worth the wait and style change or did they fail to reach their full potential yet again?
While their debut had a few complaints from fans and critics, one of the bigger criticisms was in regards to the production and how it came across muddied while the tracks were essentially dragged as low as possible, sounding all too similar. That notion can be dismissed as the production, handled by Erik Ron (Palisades, Too Close To Touch, I See Stars) is not only crisper, but more cohesive and tighter sounding giving Sylar a stronger foundation that showcases their improved songwriting and slight shift in sound. The shift mentioned is towards a more harmonious and varied driven metalcore sound as the nu-metal elements found on To Whom It May Concern (mainly the scratching and electronics) are used in a much more minimalistic capacity. Furthermore, there’s less reliance on consistent harsh vocals and heavy instrumentation, paving way for bigger choruses, varied vocal delivery and more precise instrumentals.
To quell any potential fear for the diehard fans, the movement towards a more harmonious sound doesn’t mean the band ended up on the soft side of the spectrum. Instead, the band has collectively let both vocalists showcase their talents providing a variety in approach and delivery. Front-man Jayden Panesso displays great versatility by laying down raw, passionate screams, slowly spoken and rapped messages or even throwing down a few moments of signing. Guitarist and clean vocalist Miguel Cardona also shines as he sounds like an entirely new vocalist offering up massive, catchy and crooning choruses, with a slight R&B tinge. The improvement of both vocalists leads to the biggest difference found on Help! and that is in the choruses as listeners will inevitably find themselves singing along, especially when “Soul Addiction”, “Doubting Out” and “I Know, You Know, I Know” hit. On the instrumental side, the heavy aspect remains, but the over usage of breakdowns and constant down-tuned guitars have been replaced by toe-tapping rhythmic basslines, stronger drumming and more creative riffs. For those hoping Sylar retained some of their nu-metal influences, those too still exist within “Dark Daze”, “Gambit Rogue Delight” and “Pleasure Paradise”.
For many bands, a change in style tends to lead to the record having a confused sound, with songs all over the place, giving listeners a disjointed mess to get through. With Help!, there is no identity crisis to be found as Sylar incorporated what made them unique in their own right while growing and progressing their sound. From the slight R&B inspiration found in “Soul Addiction”, the nu-metal inspired “Dark Daze”, the ambiance in “I Know, You Know, I Know” or the stellar atmospheric closer “Maintain Closure”, every track on Help! has its own little nuances to make it stand out without disrupting the overall flow of the album. This is the result of a stronger, clearer and more focused band with a refined vision, resulting in a record that’s a showcase in how to improve and progress as artists in their craft and one that is absolutely worth everyone’s time.